Helsinki Summer School teaches its participants about humour, populism and 18 other topics.
Held in August, the School offers students from the University of Helsinki and elsewhere studies which are absent from the course selection under official degree requirements.
Helsinki Summer School’s intensive courses, intended primarily for international students, feature topics from environmental ethics to Chinese law, and from the relationship between globalisation and faith to historical games and welfare cities.
A summer of possibilities
“Helsinki Summer School is an excellent place to showcase new studies and to expand your studies beyond the degree requirements.”
“During the summer, we’re able to offer more extensive study units and explore research questions that fall outside the scope of degree structures,” echoes Halil Gürhanli, who coordinates the course Populism in Europe and Beyond.
This is the first time these researchers have been involved in the Helsinki Summer School.
A course on heavy metal, another on humour
One course that has attracted a great deal of interest in advance is Heavy Metal Music in Contemporary History and Society, run by doctoral student and heavy metal musician Paolo Ribaldini. Ribaldini approaches his topic through musicology, sociology, semiotics and philosophy.
Course participants will learn about the history and community of metal music, and much more.
Ribaldini says his course will feature many music samples and even live music events.
Visitors will include Tarja Turunen and Douglas Lucek, guitarist from W.A.S.P.
Shoot a story, start a party
In general, the study methods differ from typical courses.
Sara Haapanen, last year’s Helsinki Summer School participant, says that the intensive course in August combined serious studies with summery relaxation. The School weeks feature leisure activities and parties, and the studies range from lectures to group assignments.
The courses organised by Vivitsou and Gürhanli, for example, feature many activities in addition to the required reading – from shooting a video to identifying narrative elements and establishing a fictional political party.
“One year, my students came up with an anti-paper party,” Gürhanli recounts. “They had a very well-Wjustified manifesto explaining why we should give up paper altogether.”
The summer courses also feature elements that would be impossible to squeeze into a normal course. For instance, Gürhanli has enlisted professional politicians to speak at the course.
While the main point of the Helsinki Summer School is studying, it can generate more than just academic references.
Gürhanli hopes that at the very least, the students will be better able to hold their own when discussion at the pub or around the Christmas table turns to populism. Vivitsou hopes that the students will be able to create content with impact and to understand the various ways one can make a difference.
“I hope my students also expand their networks,” Vivitsou adds. Her dream is that the course will generate a community of people interested in digital storytelling – and it might well happen.
“There’s something special about the atmosphere at the Helsinki Summer School. Maybe it’s because our students come from so many different countries, everybody’s here voluntarily and nobody knows each other,” Haapanen muses.
For her, the course was a unique experience. Even two years later, Haapanen still has the name tag and puzzle piece that she received on the course’s first day.
“At our last meeting, we were supposed to combine our puzzle pieces to make a map of Finland to see whose piece was next to yours, but I didn’t have the heart to let go of mine.”
Haapanen’s piece reads “Korvatunturi”, Santa’s fabled home.